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Reviews: Mahler: Symphony No. 1, Blumine - Zinman

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Reviews: 6

Site review by Polly Nomial November 7, 2008
Performance:   Sonics:  
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

http://www.HRAudio.net/showmusic.php?title=4399#reviews

Review by Daland January 27, 2007 (9 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
In a crowded field, this new recording can easily hold its own. Right from the start you know that this is a pure DSD recording - shimmering strings, mellow horns, sweet woodwind. David Zinman, who has been widely praised for his account of Beethoven's symphonies and Strauss's tone-poems generally chooses more leisurely tempi here than, say, Benjamin Zander or Leonard Bernstein (also available on SACD). But even so he holds the score well together, building up tremendous tension in the closing pages of the first and last movements. At the very end he manages to fulfil Mahler's wish to have the seven French horns (played with bells held high) drown out the rest of the orchestra. This is a feat few conductors can bring off in the concert hall. Generally speaking, the sonics are excellent - warm, round tone and a good sense of space. The Tonhalle Orchestra, based in Zurich, has achieved a remarkable standard and uses a large complement of players as befits a Mahler symphony. All participating musicians are listed in the booklet, which is mainly in Japanese.
It seems that this recording, produced by BMG, is available only in Japan. Even so it is well worth acquiring. The back covers expressly mentions that this is a "DSD recording".

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Review by seth March 30, 2007 (10 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I suppose that it was only a matter of time until the Zinman/Tonhalle recording machine tackled the Mahler symphonies. I personally am not a fan of their Beethoven recordings. I feel that many other people have done the semi-HIP approach more successfully, most notably Mackerras on EMI Budget. Zinman just plows through the music, providing little insight. His R. Strauss traversal, though, was far more compelling, and the reason why I bought into the first release in his Mahler cycle.

I doubt that this recording will displace anyone's favorite recording of the 1st Symphony, let alone make it onto their short or even medium list. Zinman frankly has little to say. Using Gielen's recording as my Mahler 1 measuring stick, Gielen is able to squeeze far more color and wit out of the music. A simple comparison is the second movement. Zinman is very neat with each instrument clearly in its place. Gielen achieves a much fuller tutti and pushes the sarcastic muted brass interjections to the forefront. The brief development section under Gielen is a kaleidoscope of colors. Zinman remains stiff and straight faced here, as he does throughout. Even in the 4th movement coda he keeps the orchestra on a tight leash where as Gielen has no shame in building up the climax to be as loud as possible.

The sound matches the low key performance. The instruments' timbre are realistic, but the orchestra sounds distant and lacks impact and bloom (though the percussion comes through forcefully).

The inclusion of the rarely played Blumine movement is pretty much the only reason to buy this recording. If you do not already have Gielen's record of the 1st Symphony, buy that. I'll maybe check back with this cycle when they get to the 5th.

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Review by raffells May 13, 2007 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Interestingly two conflicting opinions of this disc and I am very firmly on the side thay says this is a first rate performance by an orchestra and conducter who understand what the first symphony from nature? is meant to be.After all they are from next door to Austria...Its Not the later anguish and multi emotions symphony from Mahler which was shortly to follow.Neither is it treated as a hifi demonstration disc with theatrics which is what seems to be the norm for some people requirements.
Comparing with so many versions from up to 40 odd years old including a piano transcription, its instructive to see how raadings have changed.Zinmann has almost reverted to the earlier presentation where the nature element of the syphony seems to be relevant.A strong clue is the added Blumine which was discarded for argued about reasons.Nowadays with the additional Blumine added such a long symphony would not be considered out of place either in concert or as a listening experience.
Initial I thought that the strong control over the final pages sounded like the Orchestra was just about exhausted but on several subsequent listening the tempo is there as per the score rather than to show off.I also read someone complaining about the lack of bass.Well I suppose he couldnt hear the electric guitars either ? because the last movement is where the big drum is used heavily and very loud and deep. The recording is excellent without the artificial close up highlighting and lets the music speak for itself,probably a tad quiterer than most but this is to allow for the extra dynamics in the louder last movement. I have heard slightly better playing of the famous folk Fre Jaque tune most noticably by an American Orchestra with Abravanal which is also one of the best version on sacd and DVDA for that matter.
The bonus work is well worth having and may help in an vbetter understanding of what this symphony is about..

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Review by jlaurson October 10, 2007 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The most recent addition to the “Titan+Blumine” recordings is David Zinman's opening salvo in the Mahler-cycle contest. Zinman's will be the first integral cycle available on SACD. Zinman has flexibility and idiom, a generally warm and round approach, less militaristic. He's generally rather ‘soft’ and awfully gentle in the third movement, his timpani muted. (No sense of dread among the basses, either... his first bass playing with way to much ease and skill to ever be pushed to his limits.) He’s stately bordering tame in the finale, but helped by the excellent depth of the burnished, dark RCA sound that gives even this less abrasive and 'never in your face' approach (just) enough heft.

Still, the Mahler fan will overrule the SACD fan on account of better interpretations found elsewhere and go to Kubelik (Audite) or Bernstein's lovable perversion, or Abbado or Boulez. I've not yet heard Jansons' RCGB recording - which is notable SACD competition for this issue.

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Review by Oscar May 29, 2008 (6 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Mahler symphonies are extremely complex works, that allow a variety of conducorial approaches. I agree totally with the famous quote that "Mahler symphonies are novels in music".

Thus, the prerequisites for a succesful reading are to have a good orchestra, which the Tonnhalle undoubtedly is, and a conductor that is able to keep in mind the total architecture of the work and the forward thrust that will underline the narrative qualities of the music. Zinman provides these qualities amply.

This interpretation concentrates on the music, bringing out what is essential to comunicate, and leaves out all manner of exageration, distortions and phalse pathos that quite frequently creep in the playing of this work.

Thus, the orchestra sounds quite relaxed, but with the necessary underlying tension, shaping phrases beautifully and sounding wholly natural in this repertoire.

The sound of this disc is superb, with plenty of athmosphere and clear timbre.

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